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NY toughens penalties for vindictive employers

Associated Press / November 28, 2009

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ALBANY, N.Y. - Workers who want to report they’ve been underpaid or mistreated on the job are getting stronger protection against retaliation by their employers under a new state law that goes into effect this week.

The law toughens penalties for employers who go after workers who report violations to the state Department of Labor. The minimum civil penalty against employers has increased from $200 to $2,000. The maximum increases from $1,000 to $10,000.

That bolsters state law that has long prohibited employers from firing, demoting, reassigning, or cutting the pay of a worker who files a complaint.

The Labor Department said it had many reports of worker retaliation in the past two years. In one example, three restaurant workers on Long Island were fired for complaining to the agency about making less than minimum wage, and a backstretch worker at the Saratoga Race Course was denied a job he was promised because of his role in the department’s investigation of the racing industry.

The department said it collected and paid $24.6 million in 2008 to more than 17,000 workers affected by labor law violations.